A Republican-conducted poll concludes Ray Kelly ‘can win’

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Sal Cassano, Christine Quinn and Kelly. (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway released a poll saying NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly could win the mayor's race, if he decided to run. 

The poll comes after the Post reported Republicans were desperately trying to entice the 71-year-old commissioner into the race, and after I and the Village Voice reported on a poll testing Kelly's viability in the race.

(Conway did not release the exact wording of the questions asked in the poll. A message left at her office was not immediately returned.)

Over the weekend, News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch all but begged Kelly to enter the race. And Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has in the past expressed support for the candidacy of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, attacked the Democratic mayoral candidates, and the New York Times, for vowing to curb Kelly's policing strategies.

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Conway's poll of 600 likely voters included Kelly's name in head-to-head match ups with only two Democratic candidates: Quinn and former comptroller Bill Thompson, the 2009 Democratic mayoral nominee.

"As an undeclared candidate that has not spent a single dime, Kelly already edges at least two leading Democratic candidates," Conway wrote.

She also wrote:

Against Quinn, Kelly leads in four of the five boroughs and only trails among women by three points. Against Thompson, Kelly leads in three of the five boroughs and has an edge among both men and women, eliminating the gender gap.

...

Perhaps most impressive is Ray Kelly‟s strength among minorities. Kelly has both high approval ratings and a positive image among non-white voters.

...

Ray Kelly is also in great position to win the Republican nomination, should he enter the race. On the Republican primary ballot, Kelly leads with over 50% of the vote and is ahead of all other candidates tested. Similarly, 54% of Republican primary voters say that Kelly has the best chance to win in November.

I've written in the past about Kelly's sustained popularity, which stays high even when public approval for the department wavers. It's a product of Kelly's consistent outreach and public relations efforts, which, along with the low crime numbers, keep him in good standing.

But there's a few problems with Conway's assertion that Kelly can just walk right into the mayor's race.

None of this means Kelly will, or can, run.

To get on a major party line, for example, he'd need a Wilson-Pakula, or permission from three out of five county committees from any given party. 

A critical number of Republican county officials are at the moment committeed to John Catsimatidis, the billionaire businessman, who has donated a substantial amount of money to their organizations. 

But the very fact of the poll, along with the seemingly unkillable calls for Kelly to run, suggest a certain level of dissatisfaction with the current Republican field, which is led in the polls by Joe Lhota, the former M.T.A. chair and deputy mayor to Rudy Giuliani.

In the statement announcing the poll, Conway did not say who, if anyone, paid for it.

UPDATE: In a statement, Catsimatidis said, "I think the world of Ray Kelly and I hope he would stay on as Police Commissioner in a Catsimatidis administration. I’m in this race to stay and frankly, with petitioning starting next Tuesday, it’s really too late in the game to enter the race."

UPDATE: A Lhota spokeswoman said, "I'm not going to comment on a poll about an undeclared candidate who has said he isn't running."